Southern Winter Storm Update

This is one complicated forecast, but as I always do, I’m going to give this my best shot. I still stand by what I said last night when I said that weather forecasters or meteorologists shouldn’t be changing their forecasts based on one model run of the NAM. Even though later model guidance started to point towards a more northern track, it’s just not wise to jump the gun that quickly. This is a very complex storm that is highly dependent on the track this system ends up taking. While I understand that latest model guidance has trended north, I’m still not convinced, and I still don’t want places like Atlanta or Birmingham to let their guard down just yet.

Stop focusing on forecast models and let’s see what’s actually going on:

I’ve already detailed this several times on the site and on social media, and I’ll detail it once again. There is a piece of energy that is going to move from Baja California and merge with a northern piece of energy that’s going to get absorbed into the bigger trough that will be digging south. This forecast gets complicated for several reasons. First, it’s important where exactly these two pieces of energy phase together. Also, you have to consider that forecast models don’t do too great of a job handling cold air masses swinging down from the north and digging southward.

It really comes down to one thing: where this surface low pressure system tracks. The reason this becomes important is because if the low moves too far to the north, areas further south would only get rain due to warmer air being pulled up from the Gulf of Mexico. To be honest, I thought that the biggest “bust potential” would be this system getting suppressed too far to the south, limiting moisture farther north. There is about a 1040 mb high pressure system to the north pushing south and east, so I really don’t see how this system could go that much farther north. Like I said, given the mid and upper level trough that will be digging south, I’m just still skeptical of a more northern track, but in meteorology, you quickly learn to never say never.

Who gets what?

Precipitation is already developing over Texas and will continue to develop and spread north and eastward tonight. This will initially be an ice and snow event from eastern Oklahoma, much of Arkansas, and the southern half of Missouri. The system will continue to move eastward on Monday, spreading the moisture over the Southeast and Tennessee Valley. Again, it’s all coming down to the track, and because of the latest trends, winter storm warnings have been extended over all of Tennessee and Kentucky and southern portions of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and eastward into parts of West Virginia and Virginia. A lot of these regions could get very heavy snowfall, while some of the southern regions in this zone could get ice also.

Assuming that the more northern track does occur, we’re looking at a nasty ice storm over northern portions of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. It could particularly be bad for Upstate SC (around I-85 and northward) and into much of North Carolina, due to very cold air ridging down the east side of the mountains. Snow may eventually extend well into Virginia. This will take place Monday going into Tuesday for these regions, from west to east.

What I am trying to prevent is another situation that occurred January 2014, where people were stranded on the roads in Birmingham and Atlanta, in addition to other locations. Making a bad call on a particular winter storm can cost lives. We all know that is no exaggeration. I hope that I made it clear that I am not completely convinced that this storm won’t jog farther south, which would include places like Atlanta and Birmingham and areas along that line in this nasty ice storm threat. Regions from central Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina need to keep their guards up, just to be safe.

Again, it’s time to stop focusing on models and start observing what’s taking place. Call me a skeptic or whatever of the models, but I try to use the knowledge that I have gained over the years, combined with the tools that I have available. At least if I do totally miss a forecast for a particular area, you won’t ever have to hear me blaming forecast models for my mistake.

Better Safe Than Sorry:

I always say that it’s better to be prepared than to be caught off guard. I will continue to keep you updated through Facebook and will provide updates every few hours.

  • Marvin Busby

    I like this way of interpreting weather events. It is more comprehensive than what is given on local news.

  • john moore

    thanks again matt for your advise its better than the local and weather channels all taking a stab at this in the dark sometimes I really think they have a weatherboard they throw darts at and just go with whatever sounds good to them

  • Kim Cargile

    Interesting take on the situation. Our local mets in Chattanooga were predicting 3-6 inches of snow yesterday, with some parts of the viewing area getting 10 inches. A few hours later, they decided we will get little to no snow and will get mostly freezing rain. Whatever!

  • Kim

    Thank you for all of your hard work. I trust your forecasts more than the people on TV.

  • churl

    I do like the way you work.

  • Leo Regular

    I really appreciate this site. I just was introduce to Firsthand by my friend Tim. This is the new Standard of Wearher..